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Israeli settlers rev bulldozers as settlement freeze nears end

Just hours before the expiration of Israel's 10-month settlement freeze, Jewish settlers vow to renew building with symbolic celebrations in the West Bank.

Jewish settlers participate in a cornerstone-laying ceremony for a day-care center at the West Bank Jewish settlement of Kiryat Netafim, Sunday. Israel's prime minister on Sunday called on West Bank settlers to 'show restraint' after the end of a government-ordered construction slowdown.

Ariel Schalit/AP

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With Israeli and Palestinian negotiators deadlocked over settlement expansion just hours before the expiration of a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze, Jewish settlers vowed to renew building during symbolic celebrations in the West Bank.

"Today [the settlement freeze] is over and we will do everything to ensure it will never happen again,'' said Danny Dayan, the chairman of the settler umbrella leadership, the Yesha Council, at a foundation laying ceremony in the settlement of Revava. "We are here to return to Zionist activity … the mission of settling the entire land of Israel. This mission cannot be stopped – not just for 10 months, not for 10 days, not 10 seconds. We are resuming this mission. We are resuming settling the land.''

Bulldozers, cement mixers, and 2,000 balloons

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's call for settlers "to demonstrate responsibility and restraint," thousands of people gathered in the West Bank settlement of Revava on Sunday afternoon to count down to the end of the freeze, which is set to expire at midnight.

Activists, some of whom came to the rally with tractors, cement mixers, and other equipment, released 2,000 balloons into the air to symbolize the 2,000 apartments that settlers say they are ready to build immediately. Once the freeze is lifted, some 2,000 housing units can be built with no further authorization, according to Peace Now, an antisettlement group which monitors building.

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